NAYPYITAW • Troops in Myanmar's north-eastern Rakhine state were put on high alert yesterday, according to the police and sources, after nearly 200 Rakhine Buddhist villagers fled the area in the wake of a recent spate of killings and amid fears of fresh attacks by Rohingya insurgents.
Rakhine Chief Minister Nyi Pu and senior state government officials have gone to the area after receiving reports of fleeing villagers, officials said, and border guards in neighbouring Bangladesh have also been put on alert.
Rohingya insurgents attacked Myanmar border guard posts last October, provoking a military crackdown in which hundreds were killed, more than 1,000 houses burned down and some 75,000 Rohingya Muslims forced to flee to Bangladesh.
The United Nations has established a fact-finding mission to investigate crimes against humanity allegedly committed by the Myanmar military during the counter-offensive. The administration of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has rejected the allegations and opposes the mission.
Fighting in Rakhine has been sporadic since the end of November, but tensions rose over the past several weeks when village administrators were murdered and troops killed three people while clearing a Rohingya militant camp last week.
The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said a villager in northern Rakhine was "speared" while praying at the weekend, following a separate attack on a village head by a group of "at least 10 masked assailants" who stabbed the village leader to death on June 17.
"The killings took place over the weekend and the situation is getting increasingly worse," Rakhine state police chief Sein Lwin said.